The Salt Has Lost Its Savor

The Salt Has Lost Its Savor - Dead Sea Salt Formations
Dead Sea Salt Formations

An atheist recently attacked the credibility of the Bible by quoting Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its savor, how shall it be seasoned? It is good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden underfoot.” The atheist complained that Jesus was incredibly ignorant because salt can’t lose its “savor” no matter what happens to it. Reading the whole verse and understanding something about salt makes this attack an excellent example of ignorance about science and faith.

Today we get salt from well over 90% pure salt deposits. Halite (sodium chloride) is the mineral name, and the city of Detroit, for example, is built over a salt deposit that is, in fact, some 99% pure halite. That is true in many other places, but not in the Dead Sea, where the salt came from in Jesus’ time. Dead Sea salt is a mixture of the minerals halite (table salt), gypsum (calcium sulfate used in drywall), and other minerals. The halite part of Dead Sea salt was used for seasoning food or preserving meat, but the gypsum was used for footpaths. This is what Jesus referred to when He said, “the salt has lost its savor,” and His listeners would have understood that.

The lesson here is that you can’t read the Bible in 2022 and understand what was written some 2000 years ago unless you investigate what life was like back then. It is essential to understand that the biblical account is not about Americans living in modern times. People have not changed spiritually, but society and customs have made enormous changes. Add to that the fact that the original biblical manuscripts were not written in English, and Bible translators may not understand the culture in which they were written. Even languages have changed over the years, which is a problem with the King James translation.

For non-scholars, it is essential to be critical of Bible critics and Bible translations. Was the version you use translated by people who knew the culture and conditions while avoiding their own biases? God has provided us with tools through honest scholars that help us find answers to complex Bible issues. Nevertheless, we still need to apply the principle, “Study to show yourselves workmen who do not need to be ashamed rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Deserts, Oceans, and Life

Deserts, Oceans, and LifeHave you ever been in a desert for an extended time? Have you ever taken the sand of a desert and looked at it under a microscope? Have you visited the Great Salt Lake or the Dead Sea? Do you feel that deserts are a wasteland? Science has come to understand something about deserts, oceans, and life that shows wisdom and planning that is beyond our wildest dreams.

We now know that deserts, in general, are dried up lakes. The vast Death Valley desert in the United States (pictured) was a lake at one time. So was the Atacama Desert in Chile, which is now called “the driest place on Earth.” The African Sahara was once the largest lake on Earth called the Mega Chad. Fossil hunting in these deserts reveals the remains of fish and plankton called diatomite. Diatomite is the skeletal remains of microscopic forms of life called diatoms. The skeletons are composed of silicon dioxide, which is a very durable substance and is highly porous and lightweight. These factors make it ideal for the wind to carry. Diatomite also contains phosphorous, which is essential for life to exist. Every living cell needs water and phosphorous, which is the second most abundant mineral in our bodies.

To have rain on the Earth requires water vapor, cool temperatures, and condensation nuclei on which the water can condense. When bodies of water become deserts, the dust contains phosphorus. Wind currents of our planet take the dust from deserts which once were lakes and carry it vast distances. Dust particles become the nuclei for condensation of raindrops that carry water and nutrients to the ground. The deserts of the Sahara maintain life in the Amazon basin. Lightning in the storms produces nitrogen to add to the nutrients. This pattern is repeated in every life-filled system on Earth. The Great Plains of the United States are sustained by the dust and minerals of the Mojave Desert, an old inland sea.

The Bible refers to all of this in passages like Isaiah 50:2 and Job 38:37-38. It is not the purpose of these passages to reveal the complex system that produces the water and nutrients for life to exist. However, the references to the dust and the drying of the sea make it clear that the ultimate Author of the scriptures knew the processes used to supply a planet uniquely designed to harbor life. Deserts, oceans, and life speak to the design built into the Earth. They also show us that God has given us what we need for life and the scriptures to provide a reliable guide for living.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Essenes and Qumran Discoveries

Essenes and Qumran Discoveries
In the 1970s there was a lot of attention paid to a community of ascetics known as the Essenes. This group lived in the Qumran area near the Dead Sea and were probably the producers of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the past, skeptics of Christianity have suggested that they were the originators of Christian teachings and of Jesus himself. The Essenes expected a “Teacher of Righteousness” who would rise from the dead.

As scholars probed more deeply, it became obvious that there were huge differences that invalidated attempts to discredit Christianity by ascribing its teachings to the Essenes. The Essenes were ultraconservative Jews, many of whom rejected marriage and attempted to hide from the Romans.

On November 16, 2017, anthropologist Yossi Nagar of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem presented a study of 33 newly discovered skeletons found at Qumran. Carbon-14 dating puts the bones at 2200 years ago, close to the dates of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The bones are mostly, if not all, from adult males and have no signs of having been in combat, so they were not soldiers.

In February of 2017, researchers found another cave that seems to have held more scrolls or pieces of leather or papyrus that were ready to be used for writing. The significance of the finds is that they may lead to more scrolls in the area. Questions about who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls do need to be answered to establish the validity of the documents.

The content of the writings of the Essenes validates the accuracy of the Bible. So far the Dead Sea Scrolls contain all the books of the Old Testament except the book of Esther. The scrolls predate the birth of Christ, and they show that the text of the Old Testament has been faithfully preserved. Research continues and will have great value in answering biblical questions.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Science News December 23,2017.